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Groundwater-derived Nutrient Uptake in Coastal Ecosystems as a Driver of Shifts in the Accretion-Erosion Balance

Principal Investigator: Florence Thomas

Graduate Student: Florybeth La Valle

For coral reefs to persist, growth of the reef must exceed the erosion of the reef due to chemical and biological erosion. Inputs of nutrients onto coral reefs can control the growth of organisms within the reef system and physiological processes associated with these organisms can modify the chemistry of the water over the reef in many ways. These processes result in complex feedbacks between nutrient supply, algal growth, and coral reef resilience. It is important for us to understand these interactions. Thus, this research integrates a study of ground water sources with one on the effects of nutrient processing by organisms on the growth and erosion of corals. Our goals are to quantify nutrient inputs on the reef at Maunalua Bay, measure nutrient uptake by the organisms on the reef flat, and and measure the growth of the reef. The outcome of this study will be a GIS-based map that will allow managers and community members to visualize groundwater inputs on the reef as well as the nutrient cycling capacity of the organisms present and the potential growth or erosion of the reef under different nutrient input scenarios.